A Night in the Dark Forest (Chapter 13)

Petuna and Phineas had been going deeper into the Dark Forest and it had gotten so dark that they could barely see the ground in front of them. They decided to camp where they were for the night. It would be quite futile trying to go any further when they did not know where they were heading. Luckily they found themselves in the middle of a cluster of trees that formed a comfortable shelter. They settled down for the night but neither of them could get any sleep that night.

Petuna kept thinking of the adventures she had had throughout the day. Never in her wildest dreams would she have imagined that another world existed. But here she was having been told that not only was there one but five worlds. She even got to meet inhabitants from the fifth dimension. She wondered about those worlds. She tried to imagine what Earth, where Phineas was from, was like.

A sudden shiver went through her when she remembered the conversation she had overheard about the Amber Crystal. It was enough to banish any trace of sleep. Her eyes stayed wide open no matter how hard she tried to commit herself to sleep. She tossed and turned and huffed and puffed until finally she gave up and sat up. Leaning against the trunk of a tree, she stayed still and listened to the sounds of the forest around her.

“Can’t sleep?”

Petuna turned her head to the source of the voice. Phineas was awake too.

“I’m sorry, did I wake you up?” said Petuna coarsely.

“No not a chance, I can’t sleep either,” said Phineas as he sighed.

He sat up and leant against another tree. They could not see each other because it was as dark as a cup of freshly brewed coffee but at least they could while away the night with conversation until exhaustion got the better of them.

“Phineas,” said Petuna.


“What is that wire frame you constantly wear around your face that holds those two pieces of glasses together?”

Phineas took a moment to create a mental picture of her description then he laughed out when he made the association.

"Did I say something funny?”

Phineas contained his amusement and cleared his throat, “No of course not. These are called spectacles or glasses. Here.”

Petuna felt an object being deposited in her lap. She felt the metal of the frame stretching across the border of the glass pieces. She brought it up to her face and attempted to wear them the same way that she had seen Phineas wearing them. She squinted when she tried looking at her hands through the glasses. They appeared a shadow of a fuzzy and fat spectre but then again, there was not that much light in the first place for her to make out their outline.

“Here take them back! Why do you wear them?”

“It’s because my eyesight is not that strong. These glasses help correct my vision,” said Phineas amused at the conversation topic that he was engaged in.

Petuna thought about that for a moment. A bit of magic would no doubt do the trick if someone in her castle had ever complained of such a disease.

“Do you have to wear them all the time? Is there no cure?”

Phineas considered her questions.

“I suppose the doctors might be able to operate on my eyes but that would be stretching it really,” said Phineas thoughtfully as he muttered to himself, “So yes I do have to wear them all the time.”

Petuna frowned at the thought. Such things never occurred to them. If someone had an ailment, magic would be the instant cure. Doctors were only concerned with chronic conditions where magic only provided a temporary solution.

“How odd!” said Petuna, “Perhaps I can remedy that.”

“Really,” said Phineas more like a statement than a question.

“Mmhmm, I can,” said Petuna as she yawned. Her eyes started closing and she saw images of wired frames dancing in the air then diving into the lake. She heard Phineas’ voice in the distance saying something about having a good night to the wired frames. Then she saw the glasses separate from the frames and perform their own dance routine in the water. Before she knew it she was fast asleep.

Petuna woke up the next morning to the sound of insects buzzing. There was finally some light and she could see where they were. She found herself lying on her side on soft brown soil at the foot of a tree. The tree trunk was thick and rough to feel. Phineas was lying on his back not very far away. His head rested on the roots of the tree. His glasses were still on his face, his mouth was open and he snored. She lifted her arm but it felt heavy and tingly. She must have been sleeping on it all night. She shook it lightly to get her blood flowing again then she stretched her arms and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. She was such a sight. Her clothes were covered in soil and she was dirty. She needed some water; that was for sure.

Petuna got up carefully, making sure not to wake Phineas up and followed the direction of the insects. She crept on the soft soil which got softer with each step she took. Suddenly she stopped in her tracks. Before her was wide open space except that it did not just consist of land. The ground was guzzling and she could see tiny streams of steam that shot up in the air with each guzzle. A flash back hit her in an instant. She remembered the training that her fairies had given her about one of the other water-wrestlers – the Scalding Steam Maker. The fairies had told her that he made his home in a marsh.

“This might be it,” thought Petuna to herself. She found herself taking slow, calculated steps backwards while still facing the marsh. She was too scared to turn around and was on alert for any water-wrestlers. She continued that way until she stumbled on a tree root and fell, screaming.

Phineas was jolted out of his sleep from the scream. He fumbled off the ground in disarray and ran towards the sound when he realised that it was Petuna.

“Are you alright?” rushed Phineas to her. He picked her up and took quick glances around him trying to find any indication of what had just happened.

“Yes I’m fine I’m fine,” she said weakly in a low whisper.

Phineas sighed with relief and looked around, trying to take in his surroundings. Petuna walked towards the canopy of trees again and sat herself on one of the thick protruding tree roots, her head heavy with thoughts. Phineas followed her in bewilderment.

“What happened?”

Petuna looked up at Phineas and said, “I-I think we’ve reached the Melting Marsh.”

Phineas blinked at her several times not quite understanding the significance of the place.

“The Melting Marsh, Phineas, is home to the Scalding Steam Maker.”

Again Phineas blinked rapidly, getting the feeling that he should be getting the drift of something important but not quite getting there yet. He just opened his mouth with his hands on his hips and nodded continuously as a gesture for her to go on.

“The Scalding Steam Maker, Phineas, is a water-wrestler.”

“Oh!” said Phineas finally understanding the predicament.

“But that’s not all,” said Petuna, “The Melting Marsh is just impossible to go through because…”

Petuna’s voice trailed off as she tried to gather her thoughts while trying to think of a way out at the same time.

“Be-cau-se?” questioned Phineas slowly.

“Yes it’s impossible to go through because anything that touches the water in the marsh melts,” said Petuna in one breath before giving out a deep sigh.

“Uhh! I see,” said Phineas as he brought his hands to his head in wonder. He slumped down beside her and brought his knees up, balancing his arms on the top with his head hanging low.

“So we can’t go through the marsh,” said Phineas as he thought out aloud, “and we can’t exactly go back.”

Petuna shook her head from side to side, “No they’re after us and they’ll catch up with us soon enough.”

“Right,” said Phineas with a big sigh as he scratched his head. He looked at her and said, “But are you sure there is absolutely no way at all to go through it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you must know something about the marsh that us humans don’t. Does it have any weak spots that perhaps we can take advantage of and use it to cross over?”

Petuna thought about this for a moment.

“The fairies told me that Scalding Steam Maker lives in the Melting Marsh and disguises himself as a regular mist of steam. Mists of steam are usually white in colour but really, he is a blue stream of steam, the most dangerous type of all. The fairies warned me about him and said that he is Storm Blazer’s closest ally which means that he would be after me too. I don’t know of any weak spots in the marsh and with his disguise it would be suicide to go through,” said Petuna.

“One thing is for sure. We can’t stay here and we can’t go back so we have no choice but to move on. Let me have a look around I might be able to find a way around this,” said Phineas as he got up.

He brushed the soil off his clothes and walked towards the marsh, trying as much as possible to keep a distance. Petuna watched him from afar, her eyebrows furrowed in deep thought and anxiety. She felt her life flash before her and worried that she would die before seeing her father, her fairies and all those dear to her one last time. She felt the tears well up in her eyes and she shut them firmly to prevent them from streaming down her face. She had to be strong like her father had told her. Phineas was right, they had to move on and she must not submit to weakness. Her land was at stake and she had to warn her father about the dangers she had learnt on her way. If it meant that she would die doing so then so be it. She rose from the ground and stood tall for a moment, intent of finding a way out of the situation. Very soon Phineas found Petuna standing next to him.

“Found a way through yet?” whispered Petuna. Phineas observed her closely.

“Not yet, but I’m sure we will both do soon enough. After all, two heads are better than one, Your Highness,” he said as he gave her a wink and smile of encouragement.

The End

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